Elementary Interviews – Time, Training, Troubleshooting

Abstract

I interviewed two elementary school teachers who work in my school, one in primary and the other in the junior division. I work in the intermediate division so this gave a good cross section for discussion around the use of technology in the math and science classes we teach. The interview was held informally in my classroom after school. Every classroom in the school has a mounted Smartboard and projector, a document camera, and laptop. For clarity, our age range is from 46-56, so we are not digital natives as most technology has been developed after we had completed our education.

The first teacher TM, teaches a grade 2/3 split class and has been teaching for 15 years in the primary division. She is not quite a technophobe, but she admits to not being totally comfortable with technology and often requires a lot of support to integrate it into her classroom.  She is fairly comfortable using her Smartboard, but in limited ways to show videos and use pre-selected programs. She uses her document camera extensively to moderate student work and to show examples.

The second teacher TC, is a long term occasional teacher in a grade 6/7 classroom, and has been teaching on a supply basis for five years. This is her second full year as an LTO at our school. As a more recent graduate from teacher’s college, she is more aware of different programs that are available for education. She also uses the Smartboard consistently as a screen to showcase programs, videos, or games, but does not use the Smart Notebook as a tool. The hovercam is also a tool that she uses on a regular basis.

To add to the mix, I teach grade 7 and have been teaching for 15 years also. I use my Smartboard every day incorporating a lot of the Smart Notebook lessons into my day, as a screen to show videos or internet sites, as the platform for our Classcraft activities, and as a place to show the students what has been entered into Edmodo or Google Classroom. I also have the use of a document camera as a way to moderate student work, take up work and show examples in real time.

One of the overarching themes that came through in the discussion was the lack of training to integrate technology into the classroom, whether it was for new teachers in teacher’s college or established teachers attempting to use it in the classroom. Both teachers felt that there was a big push for teachers to use different types of technology in the classroom, but that there was no real training to back up the initiative. Any knowledge or skills acquired were usually done on the initiative of the teacher themselves or it was a one off PD session with no follow up or time to practice. TM noted that “any pursuit of professional development must be on your own time, you must seek it out on your own” and TC echoed that with “it is not available in the school and we are not given enough time to practice and apply our new knowledge.”  I added that any real knowledge or understanding of the technology that I use in my classroom has come from my own initiative, finding courses online, or seeking out courses offered through the Board of Ed or my union. All of us agreed that if there were better training and time given to practice and apply the knowledge, there would be a greater integration of technology into all the subjects at a higher order level than just using them for typing or research.  It was also felt that this would give more established teachers a higher comfort level using technology as it does not come naturally to us, it is not our culture so there is a higher learning curve for many of us.

Tying in with this was the idea of being an expert in using technology is necessary for it to be used effectively in the classroom. Both teachers disagreed with this, but added that it helps. TM stated that it is not necessary but it helps, the less expertise you have in the technology, the more time consuming it is to use it and therefore prohibitive to teachers under a curriculum time constraint.”  This underlines the idea seen in some of the videos that some programs are too time consuming to institute effectively in the classroom and teachers do not feel they have the time to devote to it. TC added that many established teachers have an issue with students being more competent and knowledgeable around technology and viewed it as a weakness on their part.”

The major hurdle or challenge for these teachers was accessibility, of the devices and of training or assistance. Devices in the school have to be signed out through the library and are often not available when it is an optimum time for them to be used. TM explained that there are no teachable moments when we can just turn and use the technology in a seamless way as they would have needed to be signed out a week in advance, and I don’t have ESP to be able to know exactly when something like that will occur in the class.” It is difficult to know where you will be in your pacing of subjects to be able to determine when it will be the best time to sign them out. It is impossible to use them in the way they should be integrated as they are used in real life applications. TC added that when the devices freeze or crash there is a lot of lost time trying to fix it, or reboot it, and we lose the class’ attention while they wait. Often it is something we can’t fix and it takes days or weeks before someone from the board will take care of it.” , essentially making the technology inaccessible to the classroom while we are waiting for it to be functional.

We concluded that in order for us to move forward with more seamless integration of technology in the math and science subjects, or in the classroom culture overall, there would need to be more deliberate and ongoing training for teachers in up-to-date software and new hardware offered by the Board within the school day much as the math and language initiatives have been over the years. That students and teachers need to be immersed in the subject with the devices to be able to use them seamlessly and to a higher order level  in order to transform learning.

My colleagues and I thought it would be interesting to take the discussion and put it into a word cloud to see what popped out the most.

To see the questions and transcription of my interviews, please check them out on my efolio webpage at http://etec533annewinch.weebly.com/

 

7 comments

  1. Good Morning Anne,

    It is interesting to compare your case with Gloria’s. In your interview you had two more senior teacher who wanted to integrate technology (or at least that is my impression) but are finding limited support. In Gloria’s interview, she had a younger teacher almost totally disenchanted with technology who did not want to use it based largely on the negative perceptions of her teaching partner.

    It seems like, in both cases, the teachers were not adequately prepared for such a large undertaking. Primary issues identified by both of you involved the limited availability of technology, issues with scheduling sign out times, and poorly structured teacher learning about technology.

    I am just looking at one more interview before trying to synthesize some of the findings between the 4 interviews posted so far. I’m getting the feeling like the TPCK model for technology use and Bates’ work on developing technology competence in post secondary instructors will provide some interesting frameworks for looking at these issues.

    I’ll cross post a link back to my results here as soon as I’m done.

    – Dan

    Bates, A. & Sangra, A. (2011). Managing technology in higher education.
    San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

    Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge.
    Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 9(1), 60-70.

  2. I related to your interviewee’s point about lack of technology training. As the IT representative at our elementary school (which of course was a voluntary position), I tried in vain to get this point across to the tech people working at our school board. The training often happened either long after the technology arrived or the training was provided before the technology was available and so the educators did not have a chance to apply their learning and forgot it. In addition, often the technology training is not levelled, which is something I pushed for. There should be training for the different levels of technology competence. Many of the courses given were either boring for those who were already competent with technology, or intimidating to those whoi were technophobes. In this way, the training is only helping a select few and is scaring many into not even trying it. We don’t want training sessions in technology that make edcuators feel incompetent. Educators require responsive training, tools and follow up. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you that the training should be at different levels as the competency of the teachers is at different levels. I have sat through many a whole school tech training, usually to find that I knew as much or more than the person who was delivering the training. Many times there are teachers who are so overwhelmed they just give up and do not even attempt to use any of the technology in their classrooms, or stick with the ones they are comfortable with using. There never seems to be enough time to learn it, practice it, then apply it. We are doing exactly what we try very hard not to do with our students.

  3. Hi Mary, Michelle and Anne,
    Reading your posts I felt like there is such a similar situation across our schools even though they are in different provinces. Lack of training, improper training (sitting in a lecture hall watching someone else use technology and being expected to remember it, difficulty with devices: not available when needed and not there for those teachable moments, waiting for long periods of time for board tech people to fix a problem, attending sessions to find out you already know that stuff you were looking for more, etc.
    I would hypothesize that if such similar situations are occurring across our school districts that there must be a wider problem. Perhaps because Education in Canada is governed by province there is no collation of data to see that the same problems exist from province to province. If each district with in a province is expected to deal with tech issues on their own, to me it seems, that there is a lot of waste of resources occurring. If everyone is trying to fix their own problem (or ignore it) there is no sharing of information on what seems to work and what is unsuccessful. It feels to me like a pyramid of frustration with individual schools and teachers at the bottom with no support.
    Catherine

  4. Hi Anne,

    Interesting, I find I can relate to your LTO’s use of the SmartBoard…I find that I predominantly use it as a screen too (I do not have a true SmartBoard though, just a projector that has interactive pens). I’m not sure if it is only because I did not receive a lot of training on it, but also that I find it time consuming to create what I need for little payoff. Plus my pens are often glitching out so then I would just rather not rely on them – now I sound like some of our interviewees! When I compare the little amount of training I have received on the SmartBoard to the numerous sessions I have had to sit through this year already on our “new” MyEd reporting system, I find it ironic. I totally agree with TM that “any pursuit of professional development must be on your own time, you must seek it out on your own”. Isn’t that sad? What does that say about our current and future professional development? What is a solution to this significant problem in our industry? It can feel so discouraging at times. How do we, as technology users and innovators, lead effective professional development for our colleagues with the wealth of knowledge and experience we are gaining through our coursework?

    I was also interested to hear your interviewees points on the usage of technology through the school’s sign out system. I have been lucky to receive a grant this year from SET-BC of 10 laptops for my classroom. In previous years I had a class set of tablets (an older Android system prior to the Google Play Store). I am finding more success this year in my classroom only dealing with the 10 devices as opposed to the class set before. I think only having 10 encourages me to think differently about the ways in which the devices could be used (i.e. in partners, during stations, etc.) instead of always thinking I had to be incorporating them as a whole class lesson.

    Great word cloud :)!

    Allison

  5. Great idea Anne for the word cloud! I am wondering about the role of preservice teacher education here as well after hearing your comparative interviews. Some of our preservice science teacher offerings on technology have been under enrolled over the years. Thoughts?

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